‘This Cup is prepared for Brazil’- Messi cites corruption after contreversial Copa America red card

An angry Lionel Messi boycotted the Copa America medal ceremony and accused referees of “corruption” following his harsh red card in Saturday’s 2-1, third-place, playoff victory over Chile in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

The Barcelona super star got the first red card after 14 years after an altercation with Chile defender Gary Medel during the highly physical second half.

The 32 year old got a red card before this in 2005 just after 43 seconds of Senior Argentina debut in a friendly against Hungary in Budapest.

Messi has never been shown a red card in 687 competitive appearances for Barcelona at club level.

“It’s a play that happens a lot. [Medel] always plays to the limit. I think the referee overreacted. With a yellow card for both of us, everything would be over,” he said.

“I feel lot of anger because I think I did not deserve that red card because I think we were playing a very good game. We were ahead, but, as I said recently, unfortunately there is a lot of corruption, the referees. … We leave with the feeling that they did not allow us to be in the final, that we were ready for better. Brazil’s match and today’s match were our two best performances, but then when you are sincere, you say things and these things happen.”

Asked if his red card was a result of his previous criticism of the officiating, Messi said: “Yes, unfortunately, yes. You cannot be honest, and you cannot say how things should be done.”

As a result of the dismissal, Messi will miss Argentina’s opening World Cup qualifier in March if at all he continues playing for the Albiceleste. He said he was not worried about an additional ban for his strong postmatch comments on the officiating.

“They can do whatever they want. The truth must be said,” he said. “I leave calmly and with the head high and proud of this group that gave everything and that was growing through the tournament.

“I hope that this group is respected and that people support them because they have a lot to give, as they showed in these games.”

Messi took a jibe at archrivals Brazil as well in his post match interview. The five times Ballon d’Ore winner expects Brazil to beat Peru in the final on Sunday in Rio de Janeiro to lift their first Copa crown since 2007.

“I think there is no doubt. Unfortunately, I think it is prepared for Brazil [to win it],” Messi said. “I hope that the VAR and the referees have nothing to do and that Peru can compete because they have the team to win, but I see it difficult.”